Total War: March to September 1864

Disaster at Cold Harbor

How was Cold Harbor different from Pickett’s Charge?

It was on a much broader front, running slightly more than three miles. All along that line, the Union men advanced, thinking their sheer numbers would overwhelm the Confederates. And in a different kind of situation, perhaps earlier in the war, they might have prevailed. But the men of both sides had become absolute killers when fighting on the defensive. Fredericksburg had proved it, the defeat of Pickett’s Charge reiterated the fact, and the Union attack at Cold Harbor should never have been made.

After one hour, roughly seven thousand Northern men were killed, wounded, or missing. Confederate losses were less than half that number. Pulling back to their own ditches, the Union men found that was one of the worst calamities of the war: in terms of absolute casualties, it was worse than Pickett’s Charge. Grant was furious with himself and appalled by the slaughter. He did a good job covering up the disaster. Weeks passed before the full story of Cold Harbor was made public.


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